KATHMANDU: Nepal´s tiger population has reached an all-time high since the country began counting the big cats in the early 1970s. According to the 2013 tiger census report, unveiled in Kathmandu on the occasion of Word Tiger Day on Monday, the big cat numbers have now reached 198 in Nepal – a rise of 63 per cent from 2009, when the last nationwide tiger count was conducted. In 2009, altogether 121 adult tigers were traced in Nepal.
Experts attribute this growth to proper habitat management, significant increase in prey species and controlled poaching. The first ever nationwide census used camera trapping and highly sophisticated software, ‘SPACE CAP’ to track each individual tiger from its distinct stripe pattern and facial attributes captured in thousands of still photos and videos. This technology is one of the trusted ways to count tiger s with precision as it analyses the pattern of their stripes, which, according to experts, is always different from one tiger to another.
However, clearing doubts that Nepal´s tiger population might not have genuinely increased given the unscientific way of counting over the last three years, the new result also showed an annual growth of 12 per cent in the number of the big cats since 2009.
As per the tiger census, financially supported by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Nepal and technically assisted by the National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC), Chitwan National Park has the highest number of adult tigers (120), followed by Bardiya National Park (50) and Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve (17). Adult tigers were also found, albeit in very low numbers, in Parsa Wildlife Reserve (7) and Banke National Park (4).
“We are inching closer to our target of doubling the tiger population by 2022. The latest tiger count indicates this clearly,” said Megh Bahadur Pandey, director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC). ” With the revelations of the new report, Nepal is now short of less than 50 tigers to achieve the 2022 target.
Nepal became the pioneer country in studying this magnificent species through “Tiger Ecology Project” funded by Smithsonian Institute and World Wildlife Fund US in 1973, and since then various monitoring and counts have been carried out in fragmented areas and at different intervals, the report added. However, the report says retaining the present population, if not keeping the growth momentum going, is a major challenge.
The estimated tiger population worldwide is 3,000 to 3,200 in 13 tiger range countries including Nepal. India holds the largest Royal Bengal tiger population of around 1,700. Similarly, of the eight sub-species of tiger s, Bali, Javan and Caspian tigers are already extinct, while the South Cina tiger is on the verge of extinction.
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